February 22, 2024

MESSAGE – First Sunday of Lent – Year B – 18 February 2024

MESSAGE – First Sunday of Lent – Year B – 18 February 2024

THEME: The common theme of all of these readings for the first week in lent is God’s covenant and grace. These passages show how God establishes a covenant with Noah and all living creatures, promising never to destroy the earth by a flood again. They also show how God guides and teaches his people, forgiving their sins and showing them his steadfast love. They also show how God fulfills his covenant through Jesus Christ, who suffered, died, and rose again for our salvation. They also show how God’s grace is symbolized by water, which cleanses us from sin and gives us new life through baptism.


Today is the first Sunday of Lent, a season of repentance, renewal, and preparation for Easter. The readings for today invite us to reflect on God’s covenant and grace, and how they shape our lives as his people.

On Ash Wednesday, the Lenten study book, safety net discipleship invited us to imagine our future as a disciple and set a new intention around our spiritual practices.

First, it is imagination then it is an intention then a behaviour then a habit or practice then a second nature then it is simply who we are.

Keep maturing. Become more and more like your heavenly Father.” Jesus is urging his followers to devote themselves to holy li


The first reading, from Genesis, tells us about God’s covenant with Noah and all living creatures after the great flood. God promises never to destroy the earth by water again, and sets his rainbow in the sky as a sign of his faithfulness. This covenant shows us that God is a God of mercy and love, who cares for his creation and wants to restore his relationship with us. He does not give up on us, even when we sin and rebel against him. He is always ready to forgive us and give us a new start.


The psalm, from Psalm 25, is a prayer of trust and guidance from someone who seeks God’s will and way. The psalmist asks God to teach him his paths, to lead him in his truth, and to remember his mercy and love. He also confesses his sins and pleads for God’s forgiveness. He affirms that God is good and upright, and that he instructs sinners in his ways. He also declares that God’s covenant and testimonies are for those who fear him and hope in his steadfast love. This psalm shows us that God is a God of wisdom and instruction, who guides and teaches his people. He does not leave us in the dark, but reveals his will and purpose for us. He is also a God of grace and forgiveness, who pardons our iniquities and shows us his kindness.


The second reading, from 1 Peter, tells us about God’s covenant fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who suffered, died, and rose again for our salvation. The author says that Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God. He also says that Christ was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, and that he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison who disobeyed God in the days of Noah. He then connects this to baptism, which he says is not a removal of dirt from the body, but an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He also says that Christ has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him. This passage shows us that God is a God of power and victory, who accomplishes our redemption through Christ. He does not spare his own Son, but gives him up for us all. He also raises him from the dead, and exalts him above all things. He also gives us a new life and a new identity through baptism, which unites us with Christ in his death and resurrection.


The Gospel: Mark 1:9-15, we read about Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist, followed by his temptation in the wilderness and the beginning of his ministry, which heralds the arrival of the Kingdom of God and the call to repentance and belief in the Gospel.


This test in the wilderness unleashes a new thing. Verse 15 – the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near. Is fulfilled has come near. Do we enter into Lent with this confidence, assurance and hope of God’s promises of redemption for all things?

John has been arrested – this is the moment of the recognition of that time has been fulfilled and the time is now here. God is all around us.

God is showing up, it’s an interruption of the brokenness, it’s an interruption of what has disrupted our world.

The gospel, from Mark, tells us about God’s grace manifested in Jesus’ ministry. It narrates Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan, where he sees the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. He also hears a voice from heaven saying, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” It then narrates Jesus’ temptation by Satan in the wilderness, where he is with the wild beasts and the angels minister to him.


The Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness. Once the Spirit breaches our world, there has to be a conflict with Satan, evil.

It then narrates Jesus’ preaching in Galilee, where he proclaims the good news of God and says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” It also shows Jesus’ practice of prayer and his priority of proclaiming the message of the kingdom of God. This passage shows us that God is a God of authority and compassion, who reveals himself and his will in Jesus. He does not remain distant, but comes near to us in his Son. He also empowers and affirms his Son by his Spirit and his word. He also heals and delivers his people from evil and suffering. He also calls us to repent and believe in the good news of his kingdom.


All our scripture reading, our sharing in the sacraments, our prayer is about remembering or making real God’s life and love in the present.

What do these readings and theme mean for us today? How are we to apply them in our lives? I suggest three ways:


First, we are to **remember God’s covenant and grace**. We are to recall what God has done for us in the past, and what he is doing for us in the present. We are to remember his promises and his faithfulness, his mercy and his love, his wisdom and his instruction, his power and his victory, his authority and his compassion. We are to remember that we are his people, and he is our God. We are to remember that we are his children, and he is our Father. We are to remember that we are his disciples, and he is our Lord.


Second, we are to **respond to God’s covenant and grace**. We are to respond with gratitude and praise, with trust and obedience, with repentance and faith, with love and service. We are to respond by living according to his will and way, by following his paths and his truth, by keeping his commandments and his testimonies, by proclaiming his good news and his kingdom, by sharing his mercy and his love, by participating in his mission and his ministry.


Third, we are to **renew God’s covenant and grace**. We are to renew our relationship with God and with one another, by seeking his presence and his guidance, by praying and listening to his word, by celebrating his sacraments and his gifts, by confessing our sins and receiving his forgiveness, by reconciling with our brothers and sisters and building his community, by caring for his creation and stewarding his resources.


Brothers and sisters, God’s covenant and grace are the foundation and the goal of our lives. They are the source and the summit of our faith. They are the reason and the motivation of our hope. They are the content and the expression of our love. Let us remember, respond, and renew God’s covenant and grace, today and always. Amen.